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Archive for August 2012

Restricting HS2 to 300 kilometres per hour

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At 300 km/h, rail traction energy (and emissions) would be around 1.96 times that of 200 km/h operation (figures from Systra via Greengauge 21)

Compared to 200 km/h, running trains at 400 km/h uses 3.2 times as much energy. But to satisfy the inner boy racer in some politicians, 400 km/h is an official aspiration for phase two of Britain’s HS2 rail project.

HS2’s supporters are rather less keen to talk about the energy and emissions consequences of 400 km/h. So what happens if trains ran at 300 km/h instead? Well, in that event, traction energy (and emissions) would be around 1.96 times that of 200 km/h operation.

Not a fantastic result, considering that the Climate Change Act 2008 mandates that “the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline”.

According to HS2 Ltd’s presentation, ‘High Speed Rail – The HS2 Project‘, by their most prolific author, Mr XXXX XXXX, “we need 250+ km/h”. A 250 km/h target is certainly much more appropriate to British geography than 300+ km/h. It’s likely that 250 km/h could be achieved on sections of a rebuilt Great Central Main Line formation south of Rugby. Obviously, in terms of embedded carbon, ‘recycling’ the GCML has a second massive advantage over HS2.

Andrew McNaughton, "the conductor of HS2", backs 400 km/h (NCE)

Written by beleben

August 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Gimme shelter

with 5 comments

Centro designer bus non-shelter in Priory Queensway, central Birmingham, 2012

In the last few weeks, as a result of Centro’s project to extend the Midland Metro tramway on-street a few hundred yards from Snow Hill to Stephenson Street, the entire bus network in Birmingham city centre has been turned upside down. Because Midland Metro and buses don’t really mix, all services using Corporation Street, Upper Bull Street and Stephenson Street have had to be re-routed, and in one way or another, the disruption has affected nearly every bus route that penetrates the Inner Ring Road.

Priory Queensway designer bus non-shelter

As part of their contribution to Birmingham council’s inappropriately titled ‘Vision for Movement‘, Centro took it upon themselves to tear out nearly all the bus shelters in the city centre, and replaced them (or some of them) with faddish ‘designer’ ones that offer virtually no protection against bad weather. In Birmingham it rains, at some point of the day, more than 150 days a year.

Birmingham city centre bus shelter replacement, 2012

This week, Centro’s contractors were smashing up the far superior and fairly new shelters at St Philip’s churchyard for scrap-n-landfill. It seems likely the designer tat installed in nearby streets will be installed in Colmore Row too.

Centro-mandated destruction of bus shelters in Colmore Row, Birmingham, Aug 2012

Written by beleben

August 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Great balls of fire

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Plenty of spare capacity on the Chiltern Main Line now, and in 2024-2025

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Beleben blog is banned from transport authority Centro’s Go HS2 website and Twitter feed. What else would one expect from a campaign that prioritises Londonicentric prestige high speed rail for businessmen, over fixing the local transport that normal people have to use on a daily basis?

But on August 9, someone called Chris Neville-Smith left a couple of comments that referred to this blog, on Go HS2’s article ‘Many will benefit from HS2 across the UK‘:

August 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm
Chris Neville-Smith says:

Out of interest, are 51m et al planning to comment on the latest idea of an “alternative”? it’s to free up traffic on the WCML by … wait for it … diverting London – Birmingham trains via the Chiltern line:

I don’t know what Birmingham’s reaction will be to sticking at least on extra 20 minutes on journey time will be, but I can guess. I also don’t think that bodes well for the intermediate stations on the Chiltern line (if the recent experience of intermediate stations on the WCML is anything to go by). But the biggest irony is that Coventry will be left with no inter-city services to London AT ALL, which seems a little hypocritical for a blog writer who complains of all these communities being bypassed by HS2. Would Coventry City Council care to comment?

August 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Chris Neville-Smith says:

Oh, and I’m well aware of the flaw in the chart on that link, but I was too busy collapsing helpless with laughter to rebut that.

Is Go HS2 commenter Mr Neville-Smith the person featured on the oft-viewed Pop Idol video? If so, it appears that his singing is better than his transport analysis. Because routeing London — Birmingham intercity trains via the Chiltern Main Line does not ‘stick at least on extra 20 minutes on the journey time’. Nor does it require cessation of Chiltern local services.

Claim 1

“Routeing London — Birmingham intercity trains via the Chiltern Main Line would involve sticking at least an extra 20 minutes on journey time”.

Rebuttal 1

With the same number of intermediate stops, and modern traction, a London — Birmingham Chiltern Electric journey would be less than ten minutes longer than the 2012 West Coast one. Actually, considering the evidence from present-day timings with diesel trains, an electric Chiltern intercity could be expected to run only 5 minutes slower than its 2012 West Coast equivalent.

in Trains, extract from 2012 Mon-to-Fri summer timetable,  Euston - West Midlands

Following around £10 billion of expenditure on the West Coast route, Virgin Trains between Euston and New Street take around 1 hour 25 minutes, with three intermediate stops.

Chiltern Railways London Marylebone- Birmingham Moor Street, summer 2012 timetable, 96 minutes with 4 intermediate stops

But following less than £1 billion of expenditure on restoring the Chiltern Main Line, Chiltern Railways manage to run trains between Marylebone and Moor Street in around 1 hour 40 minutes, with four stops.

Chiltern Railways, London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street summer 2012 timetable, 90 minutes with 2 intermediate stops

With intermediate stops reduced to 2, journey times of 90 minutes are achieved today.

The Rail Package 6 base proposition is to electrify and re-signal the Chiltern Main Line, bringing it up to modern standards; and provide platforming in London and the West Midlands for a high capacity intercity service (the current platforms at Moor Street and Marylebone are too short).

It would be possible to run three intercity trains per direction per hour between Snow Hill and Old Oak Common — with one or two intermediate stops — in less than 90 minutes. And with a 16-carriage consist, the seating capacity would be similar to the current Euston and Marylebone services *combined*.

Claim 2

‘Moving London – West Midlands intercity trains to Chiltern would not bode well for the intermediate stations on the line (if the recent experience of intermediate stations on the WCML is anything to go by).’

Rebuttal 2

The “recent experience of intermediate stations on the WCML” isn’t anything to go by.

Currently, the WCML Fast Lines have to carry intercity passenger trains to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. And because of the lack of gauge-cleared alternatives, the WCML is the principal North — South railfreight artery as well. So the number of paths used is higher than on Chiltern.

Most of the stations that have closed on the West Coast Main Line in recent years had very low levels of usage (e.g. Wedgwood, Etruria, Norton Bridge, Ditton Junction). As there is a tradeoff between line capacity and stopping pattern, there is little point in stopping a 160-tonne train to pick up a couple of passengers making a 10-kilometre-long journey. Such services are more economically achieved with a bus.

The Rail Package 6 approach is to transfer London — West Midlands intercity to Chiltern, and move freight off the WCML wherever possible by using Felixstowe — Nuneaton, the GN/GE Joint line (Eastern Freight Corridor), etc.

Path utilisation on the Chiltern Main Line is less intensive, and it should be evident from other lines that three fast trains per hour would not require suppression of a local service. Furthermore, key sections of the line in the London and West Midlands areas were previously four-tracked (and are four-trackable).

Claim 3

“Oh, and I’m well aware of the flaw in the chart on that link, but I was too busy collapsing helpless with laughter to rebut that.”

Rebuttal 3

I don’t find propagandists’ advocacy of creating further excess rail capacity — at a cost of £40 billion — to be particularly amusing, when most train seats are empty, most of the time. The chart was produced by the Department for Transport. Since Mr Neville-Smith hasn’t stated what the “flaw” is, it’s impossible to comment further.

Claim 4

“The biggest irony is that Coventry would be left with no inter-city services to London AT ALL, which seems a little hypocritical for a blog writer who complains of all these communities being bypassed by HS2.”

Rebuttal 4

According to the Go HS2 campaign, HS2 frees up capacity for more freight and regional services on the WCML. Not intercity services. But HS2 intercity would only serve one West Midlands city, i.e. Birmingham. Coventry’s current 3-fast-trains per hour service arises from its position on the Birmingham to London West Coast route. And as I reported on 15 June, HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton has stated:

‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak, you’ll see lots of Pendolino trains but they don’t stop; they’re all full of people going to Manchester. In 2025, when HS2 opens, they’re gone. Trains will stop at Milton Keynes every 10 minutes.’

  • In the HS2 Ltd/Go HS2 scenario, the Birmingham to London fast service would move to HS2 and not serve Coventry.
  • In the Rail Package 6 scenario, the Birmingham to London fast service would move to Chiltern and not run through Coventry.

In both scenarios, Coventry would retain a semi-fast service to London Euston.

In RP6, there is also the possibility of splitting and joining London trains at Leamington Spa, to provide through fast services from Coventry (and possibly Kenilworth) to Old Oak Common.

Unlike HS2-Curzon Street, Snow Hill is not a dead end station. So the RP6 scenario would permit through fast trains to London to Stourbridge, Wolverhampton, and Walsall; and bring West Bromwich within 100 minutes of London.

Go HS2’s vapid endorsement of Mr Neville-Smith’s comment was that “Such schemes [presumably RP6] don’t solve the dilemma for the West Midlands and ignore routes north”. The real “dilemma” for advocates of a £20 billion high speed railway from the West Midlands to London is that

  • there is no capacity or environmental case, and
  • five of the seven metropolitan boroughs would see no journey time benefit.

In fact, large parts of the other two boroughs would see no journey time benefit, because of the bad connectivity.

Mr Neville-Smith mentioned the 51m proposals. They are focused on the West Coast Main Line, and have a different emphasis to RP6. Along with its inclusion of a Stafford by-pass, perception of 51m has been affected by the political sensitivity of past disruption and cost overruns that happened during the 1997 – 2008 WCML modernisation.


Transferring West Midlands intercity trains to the Chiltern Main Line

  • benefits the region as a whole, with notable connectivity gains in Walsall, Solihull, and West Bromwich
  • frees paths on West Coast for more trains from Euston to North West England.

Written by beleben

August 15, 2012 at 11:42 am

Read Glasgow and Edinburgh

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When the Flying Scotsman steam train between London and Edinburgh started running in 1862, it was called the Special Scots Express, and took ten and half hours. Its 21st century electric equivalent did the journey in 4 hours, with one stop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. So much for not being able to speed up ‘Victorian infrastructure’. Today, most East Coast Main Line trains between London and Edinburgh take about four and a half hours, with four stops en route, but some take a bit longer, as they make more stops. But according to the report of the Scottish Partnership Group for high speed rail (apparently published in December 2011) such times are not fast enough.

A high speed rail link to Scotland provides significant economic and environmental benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK. It will:

* Increase rail capacity to comfortably accommodate future demand

* Significantly reduce journey times between Scotland and the UK’s major cities

* Encourage modal shift from air and road to rail

* Support and benefit businesses throughout Scotland and, in particular, enable Glasgow and Edinburgh to remain competitive in attracting inward investment. However, it is not only the scale of the benefits but the timing of when they are delivered that is important. It is essential that Scotland is included in the construction programme north of Birmingham.
A high speed rail network is key piece of infrastructure which will increase the accessibility of Scotland, offering a step-change improvement in connectivity with the rest of the UK and Europe.

The report quoted from Network Rail’s evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC):

“ Our findings indicate that the extension of any line to Scotland would significantly improve the benefit-to-cost ratio [for high speed rail in the UK]. London-Scotland is a substantial market currently dominated by aviation; a high speed rail line would reduce carbon emissions and time and offer substantial improvements to connectivity.”

and included a diagram of rail-air market share between unnamed cities, sourced from Greengauge 21.

Rail-air market share diagram used by Transport Scotland and Greengauge 21. Assuming it is correct, what is the economic value of the modal shifts represented by A and B? The volume of travel between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London isn't particularly large to begin with, and any air slots freed up would certainly be re-used.

Assuming the Greengauge 21 rail-air diagram is correct, what is the economic value of the modal shifts represented by A and B? The volume of travel between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London isn’t particularly large to begin with, and any air slots freed up would certainly be re-used.

Despite the words about connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK and Europe, it’s clear that the report’s real emphasis is on journeys between London and the two largest towns in the central belt. So for ‘Scotland’, read ‘Glasgow and Edinburgh’.

Greengauge 21’s rail-air diagram would suggest that Glasgow-to-Paris, Edinburgh-to-Duesseldorf, London-to-Inverness, or even Southampton-to-Falkirk, would not be markets transformed by the Y network. In any event, the notion of a rail-air market share, as opposed to an all-modes share (that includes travel by private car, coach, etc), is artificial and suspect.

Equally baffling is the idea that increasing rail’s share of a particular ‘rail-air market’ (e.g. London to Glasgow) should be a public policy objective in itself. Why not target, say, London to Belfast? After all, if a high speed rail line was built across the Irish Sea, it’s highly likely there would be modal shift from air to rail in the London to Belfast market.

In his blogpost Tilting at Windmills, Nick Kingsley claimed that a 50 minute time saving on the East Coast route from London to Edinburgh would demand “nothing other than a wholesale rebuild of the entire route”. However, it wasn’t clear whether the 50 minutes reduction was from 4 hours 45 minutes, or 4 hours 25 minutes, or something else.

On the ECML, Network Rail and its predecessors have progressively raised section speeds, and replaced level/flat crossings with bridges or underpasses. Continuation of such investment, along with resignalling, would seem to offer more advantage to more people than HS2, in a shorter timescale.

Moving East Coast railfreight to the GN/GE joint line enhances capacity

As with the West Coast route, the way forward would seem to involve increased separation of traffic, with East Coast freight largely moved to the GN/GE joint line. Restoration of the March to Spalding section would create a freight-prime-user line in the East Coast corridor.

Written by beleben

August 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

HS2 goes megalomanic (part two)

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In HS2 goes megalomanic (25 March 2012), I mentioned the rail industry newspaper Railnews’ coverage of HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s speech at Irail 2012.

On April 26, North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles thanked Prof McNaughton for ‘clarifying’ what he had said at Irail.

North Warwickshire MP Welcomes Clarification From HS2 Chief Engineer Following Rail Lecture

The Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire & Bedworth Dan Byles, who is a leading campaigner against High Speed 2 (HS2), has this week welcomed clarification from Professor Andrew McNaughton over press reports following a recent lecture by the Professor.

Local people were alarmed several weeks ago following reported comments by the Chief Engineer of HS2 Ltd Professor Andrew McNaughton at a Rail Industry lecture in Derby. After the lecture, the Professor was reported in the press to have predicted that HS2 might one day run up to 30 trains an hour, that the Birmingham Interchange Station could have additional ‘acceleration lines’ of up to 14 km long, and that a new city of up to 100,000 houses could be built on greenbelt land in the Meridan [sic] Gap.

After reading reports of the lecture local MP Dan Byles was very concerned, and immediately wrote to Professor McNaughton to ask him whether the reports were accurate, and in what capacity the professor was speaking. He has welcomed the professor’s response, who emphasised that he had been speaking in an academic and personal capacity, and not on behalf of HS2 Ltd or the government.

In his reply to the MP, Professor McNaughton addressed the three concerns Mr Byles raised. On the potential for up to 30 trains per hours, the professor wrote:

“During the lecture I discussed the potential of technology in the coming decades. I concluded that, as technology develops, it may be possible to achieve a higher number of trains per hour on a high speed line, where it is designed from first principles to achieve this. I mentioned in theory this could be up to 30 trains per hour (at a maximum capacity), which would translate to a commercial service of around 22 trains per hour. These are theoretical figures for high speed rail lines and not what is proposed for HS2 specifically, which is as per the consultation documents, eventually up to 18 trains per hour.”

In response to Dan Byles’ question about reports of 14 km long ‘acceleration lines’ at Birmingham Interchange Station, Professor McNaughton confirmed that this was an inaccurate report:

“No such figure exists and as such, it was not discussed. I did show a diagram plan of a small station with acceleration/deceleration lanes up to 3 km long, which is consistent with the HS2 consulted proposals.”

Finally, many people were concerned at reports that a potential new city of 100,000 houses could be constructed in the Meridan [sic] Gap. Professor McNaughton confirmed that this too was a mis-report, and that he had merely suggested that the area around a high speed rail station would be an attractive one for economic investment in general:

“In discussing new high speed stations, I spoke of how they could add to the economic attractiveness of an area. I mentioned that any new development would be enhanced by that of new high speed rail stations. At no point did I mention any new development in the Meriden Gap. I did speculate, based on experience from around the world, about the future development attractiveness of he area around the NEC bounded by the Airport and HS2, and at the centre of the motoring network.”

Are acceleration lanes ‘up to 3 km long’ adequate for velocity matching at HS2 speeds, or not? It’s fairly common for the non-specialist press to get mixed up about railway details, but the Irail report was from a trade newspaper. So far as I am aware, Railnews has not issued a correction to it.

While it’s true that Railnews’ coverage of HS2 has lacked balance and authoritativeness, it’s also true that the difference between chief engineer McNaughton’s personal opinions and the ‘vision’ of HS2 Ltd is hard to discern. For most practical purposes, there appears to be no difference.

Written by beleben

August 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

Back seat Begg

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Bad connectivity in the HS2 Y network concept means no benefit for Wolverhampton, Coventry, Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford, Barnsley, WarringtonAlthough still named as the Director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail (Biz4HS2) on its ‘About‘ webpage, David Begg has apparently taken a back seat, and handed decision-making to a PR company. (This is a similar situation to Centro, where a lobbyist is in charge of transport ‘strategy’ for the entire West Midlands county.)

Biz4HS2 is apparently now being run by Westbourne Communications‘ Lucy James, who is described as the ‘Director’ in the ‘Busting more myths‘ document, dated July 2012. ‘Busting more myths’ portrayed the problems of HS2 as coming from within the Westminster village, which doesn’t say much for Westbourne’s persuasive abilities. After all, the company is supposed to specialise in changing opinion at the Parliamentary pump.

[…] a small band of brothers have been determined to play politics with high-speed rail and jobs in the North. This group is taking the fight away from tunnels in the Chilterns and onto the terraces of the Houses of Parliament.

At its core, this is a group of politically motivated individuals who carry influence amongst certain sections of the Westminster “commentariat”.

Biz4HS2 / Westbourne went on to claim that the “red light from the Major Projects Authority” is not a serious blow to HS2; the Treasury are not holding back funds; and chancellor George Osborne is not getting cold feet. Actually, it is not clear to what extent the Treasury are opposing HS2, or how significant the Major Projects Authority red light is (because its report is secret). What is clear, is that the economy is flatlining, and the capacity, environmental, and business arguments for HS2 are bust. Together, these make HS2 a very difficult sell.

There is no upside from HS2 for the parliamentary seats along the route (mostly held by Conservative MPs), because trains would not stop anywhere between London and northwest Solihull. And because most West Midlanders are not regular rail travellers to London, there is no public clamour for HS2 to be built.

The main beneficiaries of HS2 would be property, consultancy, and civil engineering companies, and it’s no surprise to find many of them in the list of supporters of the Biz4HS2 campaign. But improvements of the type planned for the Chiltern and Midland Main Lines in the High Level Output Specification 2014 – 2019 offer a much more cost-effective and greener way forward for rail.

David Begg is director, says the Biz4hs2 'about' page

Written by beleben

August 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

Safer roads in Brighton

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Brighton and Hove, proposed zonal introduction of 20mph residential roadsBrighton and Hove council is consulting until 10 August 2012 on a proposed phased introduction of 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limits on residential roads in the city.

Speeding traffic is a big problem in British towns, and it’s not unknown for people to drive at 60+ mph (97+ km/h), or even conduct informal ‘races’ on residential roads. In many cases, the current 30 mph (48 km/h) would be acceptable on single carriageway roads, provided that drivers actually complied with it.

However, there doesn’t appear to be any will to tackle serious noncompliance (driving 10+ mph over the limit). In Birmingham, the ‘casualty reduction partnership’ has no interest in safety on residential roads. Its activity has been concentrated on siting speed cameras (at the bottom of hills on main roads, etc) so as to maximise firing events.

Powertrains of older vehicles don’t appear particularly comfortable with low cruise speeds of 15 – 20 mph, and there could be a degree of carbon disbenefit. The British tendency has been to set speed limits at 10 mph stages, e.g. 30, 40, 50 mph, which represents a bigger interval than that of metricised jurisdictions (e.g. Melbourne, Victoria). One possibility would be for towns to use a 25 mph default limit for residential roads, with an increased enforcement effort funded by increasing fines for driving while using a mobile phone, etc.

Written by beleben

August 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Planning

Tagged with , ,

News travels… slowly

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GWML to join high speed rail network, says Greengauge 21According to Greengauge 21’s blogpost of 6 August 2012, the Great Western Main Line ‘is to join Britain’s high speed rail network’.

July 2012 marks the date on which the decision was made that the Great Western Main line linking London with Bristol and Cardiff should become part of the nation’s high-speed rail network.

Electrification of the route will provide for future operation at 225 km/h between Airport Junction (Heathrow) and Bristol Parkway. This will be achieved by higher tensioning of the overhead 25kV power supply, and the use of ECTS in place of conventional signalling.

[…]Future steps could include four tracking of the Didcot – Wotton Bassett [sic] section, separating out high-speed services from enhanced local services and freight, with speeds of 250km/h or 300km/h to be considered.

Greengauge 21 seem to be a little behind with the news. Because the GWML actually started off Britain’s high speed rail network, in October 1976.

BBC story on HST service start on GWML, 4 Oct 1976

Claiming that Southeastern HS1 domestic services (operating speed 200 km/h) are ‘high speed’, but equally fast trains on Great Western aren’t, is nonsensical. But that appears to be Greengauge 21’s view.

Written by beleben

August 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

Southern Region subsidies

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Department for Transport data for the years 2009 to 2011 showed big differences in the amount of subsidy paid to passenger train operating companies (TOCs) in the former British Rail Southern Region. The Southeastern TOC (mainly serving Kent) was much more heavily subsidised than South West Trains (Wimbledon, Bournemouth etc) and Southern (former BR Network South Central).

Subsidy per passenger mile, by Train Operating Company
a) = Subsidy paid directly to TOCs by Government Figures published by ORR in the National Rail Trends Yearbook (Table 6.2c) based on passenger kilometres, converted to miles [1 km = 0.621 miles].

b) = An allocation of the network grant (that is, payments made directly to Network Rail). This is calculated by taking the total network grant, apportioned according to each franchise’s share of Fixed Track Access Charges.

c) = Total subsidy per passenger mile, i.e. (a + b)

a) b) c)
Payment per passenger mile (pence) Government Subsidy Network grant Total subsidy
Franchise 2009 – 2010 2010 – 2011 2009 – 2010 2010 – 2011 2009 – 2010 2010 – 2011
c2c Rail -0.6 -1.1 7.7 7.1 7.1 6.0
Chiltern 1.5 -2.9 13.4 13.1 14.9 10.1
CrossCountry 3.6 1.6 16.0 15.2 19.6 16.9
East Coast -1.6 -5.8 6.9 6.5 5.3 0.7
East Midlands Trains 0.8 -1.7 15.4 14.2 16.2 12.5
First Capital Connect -4.6 -6.8 6.2 5.9 1.6 -0.9
First Great Western -0.1 -3.0 10.0 9.2 9.9 6.2
First TransPennine Express (1) 9.3 8.4 14.3 12.5 23.6 20.9
London Midland 9.6 5.8 13.1 11.9 22.7 17.8
National Express East Anglia -4.2 -4.5 9.3 8.8 5.1 4.2
Northern 8.8 5.4 30.5 28.6 39.3 34.0
Southeastern 5.2 8.8 10.5 9.9 15.7 18.7
Southern 1.9 -4.0 7.9 7.4 9.8 3.5
South West Trains -4.2 -5.2 8.1 7.6 3.9 2.4
Virgin 1.5 -4.7 9.4 8.4 10.9 3.7
Total DfT franchised TOCs 0.7 -1.8 10.7 9.9 11.4 8.1

Source: Department for Transport, Office of Rail Regulation

1. The First Transpennine Express subsidy totals were adjusted (on 10/Oct/2011) following a revision to the total passenger kilometres figures published in ORR’s National Rail Trends
2. Network Grant totals for 2010/11 by TOC were adjusted (on 31/Oct/2011) to reflect a £100m rebate received from Network Rail in the year

Indicator data
Subsidy data published in National Rail Trends

Network Grant estimates derived from DfT internal management information used in the underlying calculation to apportion the network grant by TOC, the fixed track charges schedule is available on ORR’s website at

Background information
Published subsidy figures are based on assumed revenue levels, either set out in the franchise agreement or based on actuals provided by the PTEs. However, this may overstate the actual subsidy paid where it has been based on the franchise agreement. Actual subsidy per mile figures may therefore be less than stated for these operators.

There is no recognised rule for allocating the network grant across franchises. The distribution of Fixed Track Access Charges has been used to allocate the Network Grant by train operator.

Why the subsidy disparity is so large is unclear, but Southeastern is the only one of the Former Southern Region franchises that runs “high speed” trains. They also get local government funding, from Kent county council.

Written by beleben

August 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm

A tax on transparency

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A Labour Party press release dated 14 February 2012 expressed alarm that Britain’s Tory-led government was looking at introducing charges for Freedom of Information requests.

This Tory-led government looking at foi charges is alarming, says Labour (2012-02-14)

Tory-led Government looking at FOI charges alarming – Slaughter
14 February 2012

Andy Slaughter MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister, said following reports that the Government is considering introducing charges for Freedom of Information requests:

“It’s alarming that this Tory-led Government is looking at introducing a charge for submitting Freedom of Information requests. Labour introduced Freedom of Information legislation as a means of opening up the public sector and improving transparency in Government. A charge payable for each freedom of information request is nothing less than a tax on transparency.

“Freedom of Information is a step towards healthy governance. It permits scrutiny of those in power in central and local government and devolved administrations. Introducing a charge is a potential backward step, and will unravel Labour’s drive to open up the public sector to wider scrutiny.”

In May 2012’s local elections, Labour gained control of Birmingham city council from a Tory-led coalition. And apparently, one of the first things on their mind was… introduction of charges for Freedom of Information requests.

From Birmingham city council’s own news website (2 August 2012):

Freedom of Information could come at a price (Birmingham Post)
Councils should be allowed to charge to provide information to the public following a dramatic increase in Freedom of Information requests, Birmingham City Council has suggested.

Most of the cost of FoI requests seems to be generated by councils’ aversion to releasing information, rather than locating and sending it. This can be seen in

  1. officials seeking out reasons not to release information,
  2. redaction of the names of officials mentioned in documents, and
  3. preparation of paraphrased minimal-answer FoI responses from original documents, rather than releasing the original documents themselves.

If council staff spend two hours going through documents looking for and redacting the names of decision-making officials, that is not a cost imposed by FoI legislation. It is a cost imposed by someone in the council deciding that decision-making officers should be anonymous in FoI responses. The Information Commissioner’s Office has stated that there is no basis for such a practice.

The cost of FoI requests as a proportion of public expenditure is miniscule, especially when considered against the scrutiny value. The ruinously expensive equalities claims made against Birmingham city council would probably never have arisen, had the Freedom of Information Act had been in force earlier. The secret bonuses, paid to particular groups of council workers but not others, would never have been started.

Written by beleben

August 3, 2012 at 9:06 am